UCLA Samueli’s Integrated Sensors Lab partners with aviation network to test terahertz breakthrough

Dec 13, 2018

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

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UCLA Samueli School of Engineering’s Integrated Sensors Laboratory is collaborating with Airborne Wireless Network (ABWN), a leader in high-speed broadband aerial wireless networks, to field test its terahertz-band communication technology at medium altitude.  

At present, the world’s wireless connectivity is achieved through undersea cables, ground-based fiber and satellites.  A midair digital network is a potential solution to provide low cost, high-speed connectivity to commercial and private aircraft in flight, as well as remote areas such as island nations and territories, ships at sea, and oil platforms.

“We are excited to enter into this agreement and pair UCLA’s pioneering work in terahertz communications with our inventive work in air-to-air and air-to-ground mesh networks,” said Mike Warren, CEO of ABWN. “There are many areas of collaboration and mutual interest.”  

The Integrated Sensors Laboratory, directed by Aydin Babakhani, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, designs, fabricates, and tests silicon-based terahertz sensors and systems. The laboratory has reported the world’s first picosecond pulse generation and detection technology using silicon microchips and successfully demonstrated a long distance terahertz wireless communication link.  

“We look forward to our collaboration with ABWN in deploying our terahertz technology on airborne platforms,” said Babakhani. “The large bandwidth and high directivity offered by our research is an ideal solution for establishing secure air-to-air wireless links. Terahertz also offers much larger bandwidth than today’s 5G systems. The technology has the potential to enable a link with over one terabits-per-second speed, which is fifty times higher than the peak data rate offered by today’s 5G systems.”

The UCLA-developed technology avoids the alignment and dispersion issues that limit the performance of free-space optical links. In addition to communication, the broadband terahertz pulse successfully augments the capabilities of precision radars and navigation systems, and also enables the identification and classification of small drones and other airborne objects through hyper-spectral sensing and micro-Doppler effects.

The technology will be tested at mid-level altitudes (10,000 to 15,000 feet) where it is expected to have inherent advantages over satellites; it will also be used to test and establish high bandwidth self-synchronizing airborne data links.

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